Patterns of Movement: mapping prehistoric cup marks across the Lake District landscape

During this year’s Ullswater Outdoor Fest, the Friends of the Ullswater Way organised a series of five talks on the history and heritage of the valley. The second was by Kate Sharpe from Durham University on prehistoric Rock Art in the Lake District.

Kate SharpeTwenty years ago almost nothing was known about rock art in the Lake District fells but, as Kate Sharpe’s talk revealed, it seems that the more we look the more we find. Carved into stones and boulders, we find mysterious circular hollows known as ‘cups’, perhaps together with rings, grooves and other shapes. So when were these designs created? By whom? And for what purpose? Kate’s talk, illustrated by stunning images of rock art throughout the area, guided us step by step towards an understanding of what we know so far about Rock Art in the Lake District and highlighted the big questions that she and others are still striving to answer.

Cup marks on an outcrop at Allan Bank, Grasmere (in the garden of the National Trust property). Photo credit Kate Sharpe
Cup marks on an outcrop at Allan Bank, Grasmere (in the garden of the National Trust property). Photo credit Kate Sharpe.

Kate first gave an overview of what we currently know about British Rock Art, using a map to illustrate that the majority of Britain’s 7000 known rock art sites are in Scotland and northern England. However, she emphasized that only a few areas have been thoroughly documented, an example being Northumberland and Durham where local communities have been in involved in the recording process. She also explained the different types of rock art, distinguishing for example between designs found on bedrock and boulders, those found on megalithic structures such as standing stones, and those on portable stones, such as cup-marked cobbles. All this rock art has been dated to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, from about 4000 to 1500 BC.

Complex carvings at Copt Howe, Chapel Stile, Great Langdale. Photo credit Kate Sharpe
Complex carvings at Copt Howe, Chapel Stile, Great Langdale. Photo credit Kate Sharpe.

When Kate began working on Cumbrian Rock Art, about 20 years ago, the markings on Long Meg and the Standing Stones of Shap were well known but almost nothing had been recorded from the central Lake District. However, not soon after, a local resident of Patterdale who had seen cup marks whilst on holiday in Italy, realized that there were similar designs on the rocks in his garden. Subsequently similar marks were found in other locations in Patterdale and beyond.

The more people have looked for rock art, the more has been found – at Loweswater, Buttermere, Langdale, Grasmere, Grange in Borrowdale, Thirlmere, Rydal, Ambleside – 35 sites to date. As Kate plotted these sites on a map, she began to see a pattern emerging which might help explain the purpose behind the enigmatic designs.

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Cups arranged around natural fissures on an outcrop in Broadgate Meadow, Grasmere (near to the War Memorial). Photo credit Kate Sharpe.

Kate realized that all the Lake District rock art sites are close to the head or tail of lakes, on or just above the valley floor of valleys linking the lowlands to the mountains. Perhaps our Neolithic and Bronze Age ancestors moved seasonally in and out of valleys or between valleys, following their herds, or making regular journeys to key sites such as the axe factory known to have existed in Langdale. Perhaps the valleys provided useful site-lines, perhaps lake margins were easier to move along than the higher fells, perhaps cargo and people were moved by boats on the lakes.

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Cup marks on ‘Barber’s Rock’, near Loweswater Village on the northern shore of Crummock Water. Photo credit Kate Sharpe.

So were the cup-marked stones used for way-marking? Or did they perhaps mark a meeting place? Or maybe they had a commemorative or ritual purpose – a place, for example, where the solstice could be observed. If you would like read more about Kate’s work please see the attached article. You can also follow the unfolding story of Britain’s Rock Art on http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/era/  and as you are out and about in the fells please keep your eyes peeled for new discoveries.

 

 

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A Short History of the Ullswater Steamers

During this year’s Ullswater Outdoor Fest, the Friends of the Ullswater Way organised a series of five talks on the history and heritage of the valley. The first was by Nick Smith entitled “A Short History of the Ullswater Steamers.”

Nick SmithNick began with a fascinating account of how he came to be a skipper on the Ullswater Steamers. Born in South Devon Nick arrived in Cumbria via Africa, Canada and various parts of Europe. He worked on ferries, fished for oysters and owned his own trawler before coming to work for the Ullswater Steamers when his wife took up a post with the Cumbria Constabulary. As a master boat handler, it took just 5 weeks intensive training before Nick’s first solo voyage as skipper of Raven.

From his own story, Nick turned to the history of the Ullswater Steamers, taking us back to 1855 when the Ullswater Steam Navigation Company was formed. In those days, before the road was completed around the base of ‘falling rocks’, the Steamers were a lifeline, transporting goods, people and mail from one end of the lake to the other. The Society’s first boat, bought in 1859, was a paddle steamer but it was soon replaced by Lady of the Lake, purchased in 1877 and Nick’s firm favourite. Lady of the Lake was built by T.B. Seath & Co. at Rutherglen near Glasgow and was transported in sections to Waterside where she was reassembled and winched into the lake. This year she is 140 years old and is thought to be the oldest working passenger vessel in the world.

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Lady of the Lake at the Ullswater Hotel. Courtesy of Ullswater Steamers

However, it has not been all plane sailing for Lady of the Lake. In 1881 she sank at her moorings, in 1958 she sank again when swamped by a gale and 7 years later she caught fire on the slipway and lay idle until 1978. Today all this is behind her and she is a simply majestic site as she plies the Lake.

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Lady of the Lake in Howtown Bay. Credit Janet Wedgwood.

It was not long after the purchase of Lady of the Lake that Thomas Cook, the agency bringing tourists to the Lakes, suggested that a bigger boat was needed. Raven was built by the same company as Lady of the Lake and was launched in 1889. In 1912 she briefly became a royal yacht when the 5th Earl of Lonsdale entertained the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Earl’s personal colour was yellow so Raven’s decks were painted yellow for the occasion.

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Raven arriving at Patterdale. Courtesy of Ullswater Steamers.

Both Lady of the Lake and Raven were converted from steam to diesel in the 1930s but they are still lovingly called Steamers.

The Raven turns into Howtown Bay, Ullswater
Raven turns into Howtown Bay. Credit Janet Wedgwood.

In recent years Lady Dorothy, Lady Wakefield and the Western Belle have been added to the fleet. Pier houses have been built at both Glenridding and Pooley Bridge and a new jetty has been installed at Aira Force.

Ullswater Steamers continues to break records, with visitor numbers up to 300,000 last year.

 

Inauguration of two Wainwright Installations on the Ullswater Way

by Tim Clarke

On 1st June two art installations, both designed by Tirril sculptor Jimmy Reynolds, were inaugurated by Derek Cockell, Secretary of the Wainwright Society, Friends of the Ullswater Way’s Patron, Lord Richard Inglewood, and Chairman, Miles MacInnes as well as members of the FOUW and the five parishes surrounding the lake.

The afternoon’s events kicked off outside Patterdale Post Office where a special plaque has been dedicated to AW. Derek Cockell explained how AW wrote in 1959 that : ‘I have a soft spot for the Post Office, this shop being the first to offer to sell copies of my first Guidebook to the Fells : an order for 6 was repeated within a week, a cause of much inward rejoicing.’

 

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Left to right: Cecilia Fry (FOUW), Derek Cockell (Secretary of the Wainwright Society), Gillian Beggs and Tom Driscoll (Patterdale Post Office), Jimmy Reynolds (Sculptor)

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By an extraordinary coincidence – serendipity – Swedish fell runner Niklas Holmstrōm was passing by at the time of the ceremony, and was one of the first to take a Selfie in front of the plaque. He set off on Sunday 4th June from the Moot Hall, Keswick to attempt to do all 214 Wainwrights in 10 days, inspired by Stephen Birkenshaw’s amazing 6 day 13 hour record. He is supported by Stuart Smith from Patterdale Mountain Rescue.

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Niklas Holmstrōm on the left

From Patterdale Post Office, the celebration group moved to the Wainwright Sitting Stone, taking the Ullswater Steamer’s Lady of the Lake, from Glenridding to Howtown, then up the Ullswater Way to an idyllic spot (GR 4619 2148), beloved by AW, beneath Arthurs Pike. Jimmy Reynolds’ stunning slate sculpture  looks out over Ullswater. Two seats are carved into the slate to allow passing walkers to take-in the spectacular views of what AW described as  ‘that loveliest of lakes, curving gracefully into the far distance.’

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Left to right: Miles MacInnes (Chair of FOUW) Cecilia Fry (FOUW), Derek Cockell (Secretary of the Wainwright Society), seated Gay Parkin (local resident), Lord Richard Inglewood (Patron of FOUW).

These inaugurations are the fourth and fifth in a series of art installations supported by the Friends of the Ullswater Way on the Ullswater Way Heritage Trail (the first, the Roman Seat on Barton Fell opened in June 2016, the second, the Dorothy Gate at Aira Force in April 2017,  and the third the Thomas Clarkson plaque at Eusmere, Pooley Bridge, on 21st May).

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Full details on the work of The Friends of the Ullswater Way can be found on their website (http://www.ullswaterway.co.uk).  The FOUW was founded on 30th March 2016 , and involves all 5 parishes around Ullswater. It has raised almost £ 20,000 during the last year to finance art and heritage installations on the Ullswater Way Heritage Trail. Particular thanks go to those who financed these installations:the Lake District Communities Fund, the Wainwright Society, the Ullswater Preservation Society, and Joe Faulkners’ NAV4Adventure.

The next inauguration will be the unveiling of Poetry Stones in Hallinhag wood, Martindale on Saturday 24th June at 16.00.

What’s new on the Heritage Trail?

by Anne Clarke

Recent additions to the heritage installations along the Ullswater Way are the third Poetry Stone in Hallinhag Wood, the Clarkson Memorial in Pooley Bridge, and two installations with Wainwright connections.

At Patterdale Post Office a plaque reminds us that the PO was the first place to sell Alfred Wainwright’s first Guide “The Eastern Fells”. Carved by local sculptor,  Jimmy Reynolds, it even uses the distinctive form of ‘w’ used by A.W.

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On the high path from Pooley Bridge to Howtown, a beautiful Sitting Stone invites us to reflect on Wainwright’s thoughts on Ullswater, “that loveliest of lakes, curving gracefully into the far distance.” This installation is also the work of Jimmy Reynolds.  The Sitting Stone is located on the section of path below Arthur’s Pike and commands one of the finest views of the lake.

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There will be an Opening Ceremony for the two Wainwright installations on Thursday June 1st – 2.15pm at Patterdale Post Office and 5pm at the Sitting Stone. For more information contact ceciliafryis@gmail.com.

The Poetry Stones in Hallinhag Wood, between Howtown and Sandwick, celebrate the work of poet Kathleen Raine, who lived in Martindale in the 1940s. She had a profound sense of the beauty and spirit of the natural world and wrote some of her finest poems whilst enjoying the peace and seclusion of the valley.

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The artist Pip Hall has worked in situ to create the three Poetry Stones, carefully selecting appropriate stones, and carving Kathleen Raine’s words to complement the natural form of the stones. A small finger post on the side of the path invites those who pass to search for the stones. They are about 20m above the path.

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The Poetry Stones will be inaugurated in a small ceremony at 4pm on Saturday 24th June.

The Clarkson Memorial remembers leading anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson who lived for 10 years at Eusemere in Pooley Bridge. In 1787 he helped establish the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The Society’s emblem was a kneeling slave in chains, surrounded by the words “Am I not a man and a brother”. It is this emblem that is reproduced on the Clarkson Memorial by sculptor Jimmy Reynolds.

Finished installation landscape

Members of the Clarkson family will attend the opening ceremony for the Clarkson Memorial on Sunday May 21st at 3pm.

In total there are now 7 installations in place along the Ullswater Way Heritage Trail and another 2, possibly 3, are coming soon. Search the Heritage Trail pages of the website to find out more about each installation. We hope you enjoy them and that they encourage you to delve deeper into the history and culture of the Ullswater Valley.

Photocredits: Poetry Stones – Jane Penman. Clarkson Memorial – Janet Wedgwood. Wainwright plaque and Sitting Stone – Anne Clarke.

 

 

 

Kathleen Raine Poetry Stones

By Jane Penman

Our second Heritage Trail installation can be found in a small clearing in the magical setting of Hallinhag Wood. It can be reached by walking a short distance north-east along the Ullswater Way from Sandwick Bay, or in the other direction south-west from Howtown pier.

The lines inscribed on three rocks in this dell are from two poems by Kathleen Raine, who lived in Martindale during the 1940s. Raine was a visionary poet and admirer of William Blake, with a profound sense of the beauty and spirit of the natural world. She regarded Martindale as an idyllic world apart and wrote some of her finest poems in the valley’s peace and seclusion. These include ‘Night in Martindale’ and ‘On Leaving Ullswater’.

The design and lettering is by Pip Hall, a stone carver from south Cumbria whose other work includes the Poetry Path at Kirkby Stephen and The Stanza Stones in the southern Pennines.

To select the stones Pip visited the site with local residents Jane Penman and Berry Patel.

She then made sketches for each of the three stones before returning to carve them in situ.

 

So far two of the three poetry stones are complete thanks to the Lake District Community Fund and we have just heard that The Hadfield Trust will provide funding for the third stone. We look forward to Pip carving the third stone this spring.

The poems from which the lines for the poetry stones are taken are Night in Martindale and On Leaving Ullswater.

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Kathleen Raine   1908-2003

Kathleen Raine was a poet and scholar who wrote in the mystical, visionary tradition of valuing above all things nature and the power of the imagination. She knew from childhood that her vocation was poetry and her parents shared and encouraged her love of it. Born in Essex, she spent several years of her youth with her aunt Peggy Black in Northumberland, a place she remembered as an idyllic world. In the 1920s she studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge but turned away from the prevailing emphasis on rational thought to “the sacred springs of life, which are imagination and the heart.”

After Cambridge she married, but soon eloped with Charles Madge, with whom she had two children. This relationship did not last either. On the outbreak of WW2 she came with her children from London to live in Martindale Vicarage, where she became a friend of Winifred Nicholson and the wealthy art patron Helen Sutherland who lived at Cockley Moor, near Dockray. Locally, Raine was known and remembered as ‘Mrs Madge’. The peaceful seclusion of Martindale enabled her to write some of her finest poetry and in 1943 the volume called ‘Stone and Flower’ was published, with illustrations by Barbara Hepworth. Raine’s Martindale poems perfectly express a theophanic immersion in the natural world.

Her poetry had already achieved much critical acclaim when she met Gavin Maxwell, the love of her life, who was a fond companion but did not, to her distress, reciprocate her love. The title of his book ‘Ring of Bright Water’ is taken from one of her poems. In the 1950s Raine was made a research fellow at Cambridge, where her scholarly writing included her masterwork on William Blake and later on W.B. Yeats. She received numerous literary awards and honours, including the Queen’s Medal for poetry, and inspired many kindred thinkers, including the Prince of Wales. Kathleen Raine died in 2003, aged 95.

Autumn Colours and Bracken Harvesting

By Janet Wedgwood

As the bracken turns golden we know that autumn has begun on the Ullswater Way. The trees begin to turn and soon the woodlands become a blaze of colour.the-ullswater-way-in-autumn-aira-woodsThis year has been particularly stunning with clear, windless days providing ideal conditions for walkers to enjoy the autumn colours and see them reflected in the lake.

 

At this time of year, the track descending towards the fell gate above Pooley Bridge passes between high banks of bracken.

 

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If you venture up to Moor Divock you may hear the sound of tractors working here and on the slopes of Heughscar. This is an area of common land, and local farmers have traditionally collected the bracken for winter bedding for their cattle. More recently, a system for composting the bracken has been developed by one of the farms to create a peat free compost, sold commercially as Lakeland Gold, and this has increased the extent of the harvesting.

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Wherever there is a view of the slopes above you can see evidence of the harvesting – the bracken is mowed and then baled before being collected, leaving bare grassy slopes. Just occasionally, a bale breaks loose as it is deposited on a steep part of the slope and comes bounding down to cross the track, quite a dramatic sight!

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Finally, thanks to Charlie Watson from Pooley Bridge Post Office we invite you to fly over the Ullswater Way and see the stunning autumn colours from the air. Enjoy! http://ullswaterway.co.uk/video.html

One Year On

On October 13th it will be exactly a year since a group of creative volunteers gathered at the first meeting of the Friends of the Ullswater Way. We set ourselves a challenge – to create the Ullswater Way Heritage Trail, a series of artistic installations that celebrate the valley’s history and traditions, the people who live and work here, those who are and have been inspired by its beauty.

One year on it is time to celebrate what we have achieved, and share our plans for the future.

Whether or not you have already been involved we invite you to join us at Watermillock Village Hall on 13th October at 7pm to hear how the Ullswater Way Heritage Trail is evolving and what is planned for the next year.

We look forward to hearing your views and ideas.

Everyone is welcome.

seat-group-2_credit-tim-clarke